Battle River Rural Crime Watch questions criminal records checks

Committee questions include how crime watch requirements are implemented

Uncertainty surrounding a new requirement for rural crime watch members has prompted the need for some answers from the provincial organization.

Members of the Battle River Rural Crime Watch (BRRCW) met in Bashaw on March 14 for a regular monthly meeting, where the contentious topic of requiring all RCW members across the province to submit to a criminal record check for 2019. Following a lengthy discussion, the BRRCW board formulated several questions to present to the Alberta Provincial Rural Crime Watch Association (APRCW).

There were some key questions said BRRCW president Devin Bonnar.

Those include what criteria is used to deny membership if a check showed a criminal conviction, would there be consideration if a conviction was from quite some time ago, is there a time limit when or if another criminal record check would be needed and who is going to make the decision on if whether certain convictions would disqualify someone?

“I don’t think we are the only ones coming up with questions about this and all of the boards in the province need to be on the same page. It’s counter-productive to simply come up with a policy and thrust it upon boards, rather than roll it out with some thought to it,” said Bonnar.

Bashaw RCMP Sgt. Bruce Holliday, who liaises with the APRCW, explained the new clause came about because of the sensitive information being transmitted to rural crime watch members.

“The issue that came up was who is getting the information? The criminal record check came as part of the due diligence to ensure only the right people are seeing this time and operations sensitive information,” he stated.

What Holliday is speaking of is the notifications issued to RCW members regarding crimes committed, potential suspects as well as possible vehicles involved and an idea on where the suspects might be heading. This information may include the actions of police and the goal is these notifications cannot be seen by potential criminals.

While those at the meeting were satisfied with the reasoning, many around the table remained wary that this new requirement will see membership fall and ultimately hurt rural crime watch groups.

Bonnar stated the questions will be emailed to the provincial board and the hope is answers will be provided soon.

AGM, RCMP update

It was decided that the BRRCW annual general meeting will be held on April 25 at the Camrose County office. While a guest speaker has yet to be confirmed, the plan is to have an RCMP dog handler to speak to the group. Those in attendance will also get the chance to see at least one of the new APRCW videos that were produced by Bashaw’s own Ben Wilson and released earlier this year.

Holliday stated the detachment is currently at its full compliment of officers. That hopefully won’t be changing, even with the transfer of one officer approved recently.

Holliday said a new cadet — originally from a rural area of the Maritimes — at RCMP’s Depot in Regina is set to arrive in April to replace the spot being vacated. He added though the transfer is on hold until the officer can sell his home.

As for activity in the detachment area, there have been several successful arrests made recently including the capture of two armed robbery suspects due to the excellent collaboration with tips from RCW members and other central Alberta RCMP detachments.

Holliday also remarked that property crimes have dropped by around 11 per cent over the last 12 months and that continuing public calls to the detachment regarding suspicious people and vehicles in the area seem to be working as a deterrent.

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